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Con seeks chance at early parole

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HE has spent nearly every moment of his adult life behind bars and must wait at least six more years before he is eligible for parole.

But those bleak prospects aren't stopping convicted killer Edmund Roopnarine-Singh from trying to convince a Winnipeg jury he deserves an early shot at freedom.

Roopnarine-Singh, 40, appeared Monday for the start of a weeklong "faint hope" hearing. The rare legal process under Sec. 745 of the Criminal Code may be one of the last of its kind in the province since the federal government outlawed them in 2011.

However, anyone convicted of first-degree murder prior to that may bring about an application, as Roopnarine-Singh did. The onus is now on him to convince a jury he deserves a chance to ask the National Parole Board to release him prior to serving at least 25 years of his life sentence. If the jury rejects his bid, he can't apply. But if they give him the green light, the parole board has the final say.

There's an added twist to this case: Roopnarine-Singh is not a Canadian citizen and faces automatic deportation back to his native Trinidad if, or when, he is released, court was told.

Roopnarine-Singh's legal application will see his entire life, especially the years he has spent in prison, examined under a legal microscope. His lawyer, James Lockyer, told jurors Monday they will learn of a man who has made tremendous strides.

"He is a changed man. A man of great integrity," Lockyer said in reading excerpts from letters of support during his opening statement. He told jurors they will hear how Roopnarine-Singh has upgraded his education, married a supportive woman and become a respected inmate behind bars.

"He's ardently put forward an honest effort to establish strong morals," said Lockyer.

Roopnarine-Singh has been in continuous custody since 1992, when he was arrested on an aggravated assault and firearms charge. He was doing time for those offences in 1995 when he stabbed a fellow inmate to death at Stony Mountain Institution.

Bertrand Myran, a Manitoba Warriors street enforcer, bled to death in his cell.

Roopnarine-Singh didn't deny the killing but claimed it was done in self-defence because Myran, and other aboriginal gang members, were targeting black inmates such as himself inside Stony. There was even evidence of previous attacks against him and a "hit list" with his name on it.

Jurors ultimately rejected his story and found him guilty of first-degree murder. He was given an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. That date doesn't arrive until 2020.

On Monday, Lockyer told jurors specific details of the killing and how Roopnarine-Singh honestly believed he would be killed if he didn't take action. He called Myran a "violent man with a nasty temper who was known to terrorize other inmates."

Numerous inmates filed complaints about being assaulted or threatened by Myran in order to extort money or drugs from them.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2014 A5

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